After my post last week about why I dress the way I do, even as a SAHM, I have been inundated with comments, emails, tweets etc, all asking me to expand on my thoughts and to answer so many questions you all have around this topic. One of the key issues that came out of those emails was this questions – Why do women / mothers let themselves go? To which I believe there are different answers for Mothers vs. Women in general although they do share similar territory. So here goes with my opinion on the subject…
Firstly, what is “letting yourself go”? In the most truest sense of the term, I believe that it is letting go of the essence that makes you YOU and then allowing that to translate into what we put on everyday. The hair that hasn’t been cut in months, the ill-fitting outfits, the various shades of black and grey ad nuaseum. Letting yourself go outworks itself in different ways for each of us, but the common factor is the lack of sparkle, the lack of joy and the, frankly not giving a toss anymore.
It is a usually a slow process, creeping up on us like that poor frog in the pot of warm water. It begins the first time we think, “Oh, well, it’s just the post office, I don’t have to get fancy for that,” then schlepping down makeup free and unbrushed hair. And slowly, this slide becomes the norm until the only time we “dress up” is for work, big dates and perhaps the odd special occasion. But the question is WHY do we do this?
Because it is HARD not to. The construct of our modern society is such that the parameters of what is acceptable dress and behaviour have slipped so markedly that no one raises an eyebrow if you head out for milk in your pyjamas. Fifty years ago such behaviour would have been looked upon as one step away from being hauled off to a rest home for a spot of recovery and a hand full of pills. Yes, what this amounts to in its simplest form is really peer pressure, Keeping Up With the Joneses, and not rocking the boat. And when the Joneses are heading off to pick the kids up from school in their trackies, it is no wonder that so many don’t think twice about doing the same. Society’s dress code slippery slope is another big issue, but we’ll only graze the surface for the purposes of this post. So, suffice to say that if your neighbour has also let themselves go, there is safety in numbers and you don’t feel that sense of shame as you did on that first trip to the post office. Multiply this factor times fifty and you start to see this dress code as the norm, rather than for what it is.
Because we WANT TO HIDE. When all around you are wearing green jumpers and you are the only woman in red, you attract attention and it is often attention you don’t want. Thus we chose not to challenge the commonly accepted dress code as it will mark us out from the crowd. We choose to hide as we often feel we have nothing of real value to add, that somehow should we become visible, that everyone will see our flaws, our guilt. That by being visible we are putting ourselves up for judgment by the masses. And so, to avoid any potential embarrassment, we cloak ourselves in the uniform of the day and go about our business unnoticed.
Because it takes EMOTIONAL ENERGY and we have none left to give. Everyone in our lives wants something from us. You must be Mother, teacher, wife, friend, model employee etc etc.. And every role takes something from us each time we give it out. Constantly we hear the mantra from lifestyle mags and well meaning best friends, that we must “do something for ourselves”. And while this is 100% correct, the problem is that when we do, it is seen as a special occasion. Take for instance those pampering packages. Go on, treat your mother. Poor old thing hasn’t had a massage in a year. Why not? Because she was too bloody busy making sure your clothes were washed and your costume was made for the school play! We should not act like slaves to our lives, with ourselves bottom of the To Do list. Because when you get to the bottom of the list, there IS nothing left.
Because YOU’RE DAMNED IF YOU DO AND DAMNED IF YOU DON’T. And that is a hard battle to fight. Letting yourself go may be something we seek to improve ourselves from, but it is also the path of least resistance. When you get those highlights and start taking yoga, your friends pat your on the back. “You go girl.” “About time you had some me time.” But start scheduling a weekly massage, always wearing your best dress and putting on your favorite lipstick before even getting the kids out of bed, and watch them change their tune. ” Hmmm, those poor kids. Their mother must spend so much time in front of the mirror she never looks at them.” ” Who does she think she is?” And this little gem, ” Oh no, better not invite Mrs X. to the drinks night, or my husband will start wondering why I don’t dress like that.”
Because we JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START. Life can take over so far that we no longer recognise ourselves. We do not know what music we like, we have trouble filling in a profile page on Facebook, and our topics of conversation always turn to the minutia of our lives, as that is all we are consumed by. The girls we were, those we spent hours indulging with gossip sessions, beauty experiments and glee clubs are gone; and yet we never really spend anything like this time exploring the women we are to become. It just happens. We wake up one day to a bathroom cabinet filled with eye creme instead of cherry gloss and the other shoe drops. We are not some fabulous new specimen of women handed a glittering crown and a sash as we enter the best years of our lives. We are little girls in women’s bodies who have lost the road maps to our passions – and it sucks.
And this my friends, is why so many women just give up and let themselves go. Because it is all just too bloody hard. And upon reading this sad state of affairs, you pity these poor creatures in whom you may recognise a little or a lot of yourself. It isn’t glorious to spend your days in tracksuits, and you cannot convince me that a facial once a month is enough to feed your soul.
“Do not go gentle into that good night..” Dylan Thomas
*If all this reading isn’t too much, and you ‘d like to see a space for my thoughts on being, let me know!*